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JANUARY 2018 • COUNTRY LIFE IN BC


Surrey business group recognizes


ag leaders Ag minister stresses importance of keeping land in production


by PETER MITHAM SURREY – Surrey Board of


Trade presented its inaugural awards for agricultural leadership at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Cloverdale on November 16, and BC Agriculture Minister Lana Popham was on hand for the proceedings. Prior to the evening event,


Popham toured various agricultural and food processing operations in the Lower Mainland, including Tswawwassen First Nation’s farm school and Central City Brewers and Distillers, a Surrey beverage producer that received $73,000 from the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC to expand its markets. Speaking to the Surrey


Board of Trade, Popham outlined her ministry’s platform for growing the agriculture sector in BC. She made special mention of the need to keep farmland in production. “The agricultural land in


this province is for food growing, it’s not for development, and we have to make sure we have policies in place that make that happen – not just protect agricultural land,” she said. “We don’t need to protect it. We need to use agricultural land in a sustainable way.”


Leadership awards The leadership awards


recognized two examples of local farmers who have stepped up to the challenge. Among the individuals nominated for the awards were poultry farmer Michael Bose, greenhouse grower Ravi Cheema, and land-matcher Darcy Smith. Organizations nominated included dairy producer Donia Farms, Young


• BEEF • VEAL • BISON • LAMB • GOAT • DEER


Agrarians and vegetable grower Zaklan Heritage Farm. The judges assessed


nominees on the basis of their efforts to boost agricultural production, the use of local products and the long-term protection and viability of Surrey’s farmland. In addition, nominees’ innovations in business management and technology and their efforts to protect agricultural assets and encourage policies that support and protect agriculture were considered. Bose, a long-time advocate


for Surrey agriculture who has shown leadership as a member of the city’s agriculture and food policy advisory committee and as a commissioner of the Agricultural Land Commission, was named winner in the individual category. Zaklan Heritage Farm, a


venture of Gemma McNeill and husband Doug Zaklan, won for its dedication to cultivating a viable farm business in the midst of encroaching residential development. Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman spoke of the importance of farming to Surrey. The city’s farms collectively generate $200 million in sales each year. Skills training and development of a food strategy were among the city’s accomplishments in supporting the sector. Surrey councillor Mike


Starchuk said that city policies send an important message to the next generation that agriculture is both viable and a career worth considering. This is important, because 57% of farmers in Surrey were 55 years or older in the 2016 census, and just 35 were under the age of 35. The average age of Surrey farmers


39


Gemma McNeill and Doug Zaklan of Zaklan Heritage Farm grow vegetables in the heart of a subdivision in Surrey's Newton neighbourhood. PETER MITHAM PHOTO


in the last census was 56.5 years.


This is in sharp contrast to


Surrey as a whole. One of the fastest-growing cities in BC, a quarter of its population is under 19. Agriculture offers opportunities for them to live and work in the community, contributing to its development.


Surrey also has the land for them to do it. According to the province’s inventory of local farmland, the city has 22,956 acres within the Agricultural Land Reserve but 7,500 acres are under-utilized or non-productive. A majority of the under-utilized acreage consists of parcels smaller than 10 acres (the city doesn’t


suffer from the relatively high rate of parcelization seen in other municipalities in the Lower Mainland, however). Starchuk pointed out that land-matching initiatives such as [FarmableNow.ca] are helping connect landowners with growers, but there was great room for such programs to grow.


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